Public Accounting Interns: What to Do if You’re Wary of Accepting Your Fulltime Offer

The morning subway commute to work in Manhattan this week was refreshingly quiet; maybe it’s because so many bankers are in Cashew Mode (Street talk for the fetal position); the Hamptons are crowded; the interns are GONE. I know, staff members…time to return to the days of fetching your own copy paper and finding other “mentoring” reasons to light up the corporate card. But this is not about you – rather, it is about the suckling interns that are now the proud holders of fulltime offers.

Interns – what a long, sometimes awkward road of courtship it’s been, amiright? For some of you, the relationship with one or more of the firms started in your junior year, whereas others of you were swooned early and often from the wee days of being a fi��������������������But regardless, with a fulltime offer in hand your search for a job has finally come to a definitive end. Or has it?

It would be silly to think that every intern across the board has a positive summer experience. After all, the old school way of doing things was that internships were cutthroat programs that were unofficial “try outs” for only the top flight of students. Only if the i-ship was successful for both parties would a firm extend an offer. But remember, these were “real” internships with more in-depth work being done than the average fleets of thousands that we have now. Back then if a student didn’t receive an internship, it was not nearly the Scarlet Letter it is in today’s system. But in a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses sort of way, the modern day internship program is just one giant recruiting pipeline tool. You know it. I know it. Everyone (including the professors) know it.

What about that intern at ABC LLC that feels incredible pressure to accept the offer, oftentimes when recruiters remind them of how much the firms have invested in said student (University happy hours. Dinners. “Trainings” in Florida. I don’t need to keep going.). Is it worth risking not getting an offer from another firm during the Fall recruiting season? Afraid of being labeled as a “risky” candidate?

So, interns – what the hell are you supposed to do? Here are a few ideas.

Same firm, different role – This is the easier change to make. Maybe you interned in financial services tax, but you have a yearning to get involved with non-profit or corporate clients. Speak to your recruiter about the possibility of transferring your offer to a different group. This does not mean you can make the move from Assurance to Forensic advisory, however. Stay within the skill set your internship provided.

This kind of move will only be possible if the group you’d like to transfer to has vacant spaces. For example, if the corporate tax group has 10 fulltime needs for FY2012 and they extended five fulltime offers to interns, you have a decent shot of transferring groups. If there were nine offers made for the same ten spots, your chances are much slimmer. Why? Because your recruiter (and really, the practice leader) will want to keep some room in the budget in case the next big tax star is found on campus in the fall. If you are going to request a change, be absolutely sure it’s where you want to be. Don’t go shooting yourself in the foot 1-2 years down the road from now.

Request a deadline extension – Look at the deadline on your offer. Got it? Good. Now go look at your university’s fall career fair schedule. Same date? Pretty damn close to it? Mmmhmm.

The turn-around on fulltime offers is a short window for two reasons: 1) because of the “you should be dying to work for us” Kool-aid and 2) because the recruiting teams need to know how many people to hire from campus. This is a fair and understandable, but it can put potential hires in a sticky situation if they are unsure of where they’d like to be come graduation.

Put your feelers out to the other firms early – before getting back to campus – Tell them about the positive experience you had during your internship, but express your continued interest in pursuing a fulltime option with them. It’s okay to ask them if there is any chance to be considered in the fall; recruiters do not waste time, especially their own. If you receive positive feedback from other firms, request an extension for your offer. Send your recruiter an email asking to speak with them over the phone; remain positive throughout the conversation (about your internship experience, your relationship with them, etc.); kindly ask for an extension. Most importantly, have a date in mind. Ask the other firms what their timelines are for interviewing on campus and extending offers. They are not immune to the situation themselves, and they will understand the sensitive timing.

Important to keep in mind: the conversation rate (interns who receive, then accept fulltime offers) is a critical aspect in many firms’ performance rankings for the recruiting staff, so it is in the recruiters’ best interest to do what is in their ability to land every acceptance possible. It should also be noted that the relationship you have within the practice you interned with and your recruiter are influential wild cards in these situations. The stronger the relationship, the more flexibility you will be privy to.

Seasoned vets – what advice can you give to you future staff members? Dish your details below.

The morning subway commute to work in Manhattan this week was refreshingly quiet; maybe it’s because so many bankers are in Cashew Mode (Street talk for the fetal position); the Hamptons are crowded; the interns are GONE. I know, staff members…time to return to the days of fetching your own copy paper and finding other “mentoring” reasons to light up the corporate card. But this is not about you – rather, it is about the suckling interns that are now the proud holders of fulltime offers. Interns – what a long, sometimes awkward road of courtship it’s been, amiright? For some of you, the relationship with one or more of the firms started in your junior year, whereas others of you were swooned early and often from the wee days of being a first year on campus. But regardless, with a fulltime offer in hand your search for a job has finally come to a definitive end. Or has it? It would be silly to think that every intern across the board has a positive summer experience. After all, the old school way of doing things was that internships were cutthroat programs that were unofficial “try outs” for only the top flight of students. Only if the i-ship was successful for both parties would a firm extend an offer. But remember, these were “real” internships with more in-depth work being done than the average fleets of thousands that we have now. Back then if a student didn’t receive an internship, it was not nearly the Scarlet Letter it is in today’s system. But in a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses sort of way, the modern day internship program is just one giant recruiting pipeline tool. You know it. I know it. Everyone (including the professors) know it. What about that intern at ABC LLC that feels incredible pressure to accept the offer, oftentimes when recruiters remind them of how much the firms have invested in said student (University happy hours. Dinners. "Trainings" in Florida. I don’t need to keep going.). Is it worth risking not getting an offer from another firm during the Fall recruiting season? Afraid of being labeled as a “risky” candidate? So, interns – what the hell are you supposed to do? Here are a few ideas. Same firm, different role – This is the easier change to make. Maybe you interned in financial services tax, but you have a yearning to get involved with non-profit or corporate clients. Speak to your recruiter about the possibility of transferring your offer to a different group. This does not mean you can make the move from Assurance to Forensic advisory, however. Stay within the skill set your internship provided. This kind of move will only be possible if the group you’d like to transfer to has vacant spaces. For example, if the corporate tax group has 10 fulltime needs for FY2012 and they extended five fulltime offers to interns, you have a decent shot of transferring groups. If there were nine offers made for the same ten spots, your chances are much slimmer. Why? Because your recruiter (and really, the practice leader) will want to keep some room in the budget in case the next big tax star is found on campus in the fall. If you are going to request a change, be absolutely sure it’s where you want to be. Don’t go shooting yourself in the foot 1-2 years down the road from now. Request a deadline extension – Look at the deadline on your offer. Got it? Good. Now go look at your university’s fall career fair schedule. Same date? Pretty damn close to it? Mmmhmm. The turn-around on fulltime offers is a short window for two reasons: 1) because of the “you should be dying to work for us” Kool-aid and 2) because the recruiting teams need to know how many people to hire from campus. This is a fair and understandable, but it can put potential hires in a sticky situation if they are unsure of where they’d like to be come graduation. Put your feelers out to the other firms early – before getting back to campus – Tell them about the positive experience you had during your internship, but express your continued interest in pursuing a fulltime option with them. It’s okay to ask them if there is any chance to be considered in the fall; recruiters do not waste time, especially their own. If you receive positive feedback from other firms, request an extension for your offer. Send your recruiter an email asking to speak with them over the phone; remain positive throughout the conversation (about your internship experience, your relationship with them, etc.); kindly ask for an extension. Most importantly, have a date in mind. Ask the other firms what their timelines are for interviewing on campus and extending offers. They are not immune to the situation themselves, and they will understand the sensitive timing. Important to keep in mind: the conversation rate (interns who receive, then accept fulltime offers) is a critical aspect in many firms’ performance rankings for the recruiting staff, so it is in the recruiters’ best interest to do what is in their ability to land every acceptance possible. It should also be noted that the relationship you have within the practice you interned with and your recruiter are influential wild cards in these situations. The stronger the relationship, the more flexibility you will be privy to. Seasoned vets – what advice can you give to you future staff members? Dish your details below.

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